How Long Do You Actually Need to Study for the OAT Exam?

How Long Do You Actually Need to Study for the OAT Exam

If you’re hoping to enter optometry school, you likely understand how important the OAT test is. Optometry schools will look at your OAT score, along with your college records and resume, to determine if you are a good fit for their program.

Since this test is so important, you’ll want to spend some time studying for it. But how long do you actually need to study for the OAT exam? Read on to find out the right amount of time to spend studying so that you can get the score you desire.

How Long Do You Actually Need to Study for the OAT Exam?

While the OAT isn’t designed to test your content knowledge so much as it is intended to predict your preparedness for an optometry program, you still need to spend ample time preparing for the test. Most experts recommend that you spend at least two to three months studying for the OAT.

There are a few ways to approach your plan of action for studying for the OAT. There are courses you can take that will help prepare you. You can start the course three months out from the test. You will then have time to take several practice tests and review any areas of weakness.

You can also prepare by going over the sections of the test listed below. Start by studying the subjects where you’re weakest and then move to topics that come more easily to you. Overall, you should allow yourself at least three months to study so that you can avoid cramming.

What Is the OAT Exam?

The Optometry Admission Test, or OAT, is a test taken by all applicants looking to get into optometry programs. It’s not a test taken at the end of your optometry training, but rather at the very beginning – right between taking your general education courses and starting optometry school.

The OAT isn’t designed to test what you know about optometry. Instead, it was created to predict a candidate’s potential for success in optometry training. The OAT helps optometry schools choose the best candidates for their programs.

The OAT scores you based on several factors. It measures your academic abilities to ensure that you are ready for the rigor required in an optometry program. The test also measures your scientific knowledge and your analytical skills, the two areas where you’ll need to be the strongest in order to do well in optometry school.

What the Test Measures

The OAT looks at your scientific knowledge in several different disciplines, including physics, biology, and chemistry. The OAT will also test your reading comprehension ability to see if you’ll be able to handle the amount of reading optometry school will require. Lastly, it measures your quantitative reasoning skills. Quantitative reasoning is a test of your math abilities.

What Types of Questions Can You Expect on the OAT Exam?

The OAT is divided into four sections: a survey of natural sciences, reading comprehension, physics, and quantitative reasoning. Let’s break down what you’ll have to do in each section.

The survey of the natural sciences section lasts 90 minutes, with questions on biology, general chemistry, and organic chemistry for a total of 100 multiple-choice questions. With 100 questions and 90 minutes, you’ll have less than a minute per question.


For the Reading Comprehension section, you’ll be allotted one hour. In this time, you’ll have three passages to read and around 17 questions to answer for each passage. You’ll have a total of 50 items. The best way to approach this section is to allow about 20 minutes for each passage and questions.

The Physics section will last for 40 minutes, and you’ll have 50 multiple-choice questions. You’ll have questions on topics such as optics, vectors, thermodynamics, and more. Make sure to allow a little less than a minute per question.

The last section is Quantitative Reasoning. The section lasts for 45 minutes, and there are 40 questions, meaning you’ll have a little over a minute per question. This section can test a range of math and problem-solving skills.

Some questions are simple arithmetic and can be worked quickly. Other problems may involve more advanced mathematics, like algebra or trigonometry. It’s advised that you work on the basic problems first and spend more time on the more difficult questions.

How is the OAT Scored?

The OAT is scored on a scale between 200-400. Each question is worth one point. You will receive a point for each correct answer. You won’t be penalized for wrong answers, so it’s to your benefit to answer every question. As you take the test, spend time on the items you feel confident answering and then spend the last minute or so of each section guessing on any unanswered questions.

If you score around 300-349, you’ll be in the median range of test-takers and should be able to get into many optometry schools. If you’re applying to one of the more competitive schools, you should aim for a score of 350-389. This score will put you in the top quarter of all test takers and should make you an attractive applicant.

If you can score anything over a 390, you will definitely have a competitive edge. You’ll be in the top tenth of the test takers. Your OAT score, along with a good college record, should get you entry into the optometry school of your choice.

Can You Retake the OAT Exam?

If you’re unhappy with your score on the OAT exam, you do have the option of retaking it. There is no limit on the number of times you can retake the test, but there are some restrictions. You can only take one test per 90-day period, so you cannot retake the test immediately after taking it.

Once you’ve taken the test three times, you have to make a special request to retake it. You’ll also have to wait 12 months between any subsequent tests. Optometry schools will see your four most recent scores and the number of times you’ve taken the test.

Studying Tips for the OAT Exam

Since the OAT covers several science and math topics, you may want to wait to start studying once you’ve completed these courses. You’ll need a solid background in these subjects to ensure your success on the test.

Don’t wait until it’s close to time to take the test to do a practice test. Take a practice test early in your studying so that you can see where you need to study the most. An early practice test can serve as a guide for where to begin studying. You can start with your most challenging subjects and work your way down to the easier subjects.

Unless you feel entirely confident in your abilities, you should purchase a book or program to help you study. These guides will help you focus on the most important areas where you’ll need to study. By using these guides and taking practice tests, you can quickly identify areas of weakness and focus your study time.

You won’t be allowed to use a calculator on the test, and you will have to do some calculations in the quantitative reasoning section. You may want to spend some time brushing up on your computation skills if you’ve grown accustomed to using a calculator.

Final Thoughts

By allowing yourself ample time to study for the OAT, you should be able to get the score you want. The test covers quite a few topics, so you’ll need plenty of time to review each of the topics thoroughly. There are plenty of practice tests and courses available to help you prepare.

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Matt Lane

Matt graduated with a BSEd in Kinesiology from University of Georgia and is now pursuing a medical degree. He enjoys sharing his experience with other ambitious young people.